Brain: Processing speed slows with age, but mental and physical exercises are being tested to see how they might slow agerelated declines in certain thinking skills.
Social/Psychological: Social isolation and depression can occur as we age. Try to keep family relationships and friendships over time. Exercise can also help prevent depression or lift your mood. Stay active and involved in life. Talk to your physician if you are feeling depressed.
Teeth & Gums: Good dental hygiene (flossing, brushing) is the key. See your dentist twice a year.
Lungs: Regular aerobic exercise keeps lung capacity up. Smoking leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and/or cancer.
Digestive: Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits help digestion and reduce chances of heartburn, gastritis, constipation, and colon cancer. Men and women over 50 should get a regular colonoscopy. Drink lots of water.
Hormonal: Imbalances may occur: pancreas (insulin), thyroid (thyroxin), ovary (estrogen), testes (testosterone).
Bones & Joints: Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis make joints swell. Osteoporosis in women can make bones brittle. Sprains, muscle pain, and tendonitis become more common. Stretching, heat, exercise, calcium, and surgery can help.
Trauma: Sprains, tendonitis, muscle pain become more common. Stretching, heat, and some surgeries can help. Stay active.
Eyes & Ears: At about 40, ability to see close up declines. Cataracts and glaucoma are common in those over 60. Get eye exams to check for that and macular degeneration. Hearing aids can help age-related hearing loss.
Heart: Exercise and keep weight down to avoid high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries, & heart disease risk. Don't smoke.
Urinary: As bladder support weakens, urinary incontinence can occur. Prostate problems in men are more common. Drugs and surgery can help.
Reproductive: Fibroids, ovarian cysts, and cancer of uterus can occur in women; sexual dysfunction increases for men and women.
Skin: Protect your skin from the sun; avoid shingles with new vaccine. See your doctor for melanoma and other skin cancer checks.
This special section has been compiled from information from many NIH Institutes and Centers, especially NIA; the National Cancer Institute (NCI); the National Eye Institute (NEI); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS); the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). For contact information for all NIH offices and their specialized research areas, turn to page 28 in each issue of NIH MedlinePlus magazine.